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Glendale Detective Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges

John Saro Balian, 45, of Seal Beach entered his plea Thursday in Los Angeles federal court and is set for sentencing on Sept. 24.

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What to Know

  • Following his plea, John Saro Balian will receive sentencing September 25.
  • The detective lied about his ties to gang member Jose Loza.
  • Prosecutors said that Balian lied to authorities about getting money from an informant and "relationships with several Hispanic gang members

Bail was denied Friday for a former Glendale narcotics detective convicted of federal charges of bribery, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators.

John Saro Balian, 45, of Seal Beach pleaded guilty to the charges Thursday in Los Angeles federal court and is set for sentencing on Sept. 24. Balian's plea agreement was filed under seal. He faces a sentencing guideline range of up to two years behind bars, according to prosecutors.

At a bond hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia G. Rosenberg, defense attorney Craig H. Missakian argued that his client was not a risk of flight -- despite close ties to France and Mexico -- nor a danger to the community if released pending sentencing. The attorney also argued that allegations found in an affidavit in the case, while "incendiary," were riddled with "red flags" and untruths.

"Innuendo is not enough," Missakian told the judge.

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Mitchell reminded the court that Balian had a day earlier pleaded guilty to such allegations as "tipping off" a lead gang member the night before a raid, accepting a bribe and lying to investigators about his links to the Armenian and Mexican mafias.

In denying Balian's application for bail review, Rosenberg said she was troubled about "extensive allegations (involving) extortion in many different contexts."

The defendant "does present a danger ... based upon his significant role in the allegations," she concluded.

Balian -- who was previously placed on unpaid leave from the department -- made false statements while being questioned by investigators about suspected ties to the Mexican Mafia and Armenian organized crime and lied about his ties to gang member Jose Loza, described as a Mexican Mafia member and shot caller for the Canta Ranas street gang, court papers show.

Loza, who is facing federal racketeering charges, communicated with Balian, who used a so-called burner phone to discuss criminal activities.

Prosecutors said Balian took money from an informant and had "relationships with several Hispanic gang members."

Balian not only knew Hispanic gang members, including Loza, he also texted them, provided them pre-paid cellular phones, and met with them in person, court documents state.

"Cases involving corrupt public officials -- and particularly those involving crimes allegedly committed by police officers -- are among the most difficult and troubling matters we see," U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna said previously. "We rely on law enforcement officers to uphold their oaths to faithfully serve their communities. If the allegations in this case are proven, this police officer provided meaningful support to criminal enterprises, and his attempts to cover up his associations served to obstruct justice."

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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